Do your patients trust you? Before you answer that we should stop and think about what we mean by trust because this really is at the heart of the dentist-patient relationship.

Almost all patients trust you on a fundamental level. They trust that you know what you are doing when your hands are in their mouths. They don’t have any frame of reference of their own. You don’t see patients walking around with a pocket mirror and saying to their friends, “just look at this occlusion,” so they take your expertise on trust.


But there is another level of trust patients can demonstrate. It’s the kind of trust that only comes when you know you are in the hands of someone exceptional. If you knew you were in the hands of one of the best in the business—whether it was a heart specialist or oncologist, a personal trainer or a chef—you would be far more likely to feel comfortable with their recommendations and their fees. A sense of value confers a sense of trust.

In order for patients to feel this way about you, they must have a high level of trust in three respects. First of all, they have to trust that you will always act in their best interests. This can be a big barrier for some patients who are wary of being “sold” on treatment. So this is something that you and the team have to reinforce in patient discussions over and over again. The patient must have it reinforced through what you do and say that what you recommend is what is best for them, period. No hidden agendas.

Patients also have to trust in your clinical skills and not just at that fundamental level at which they trust all dentists. If you have committed to the highest level of clinical excellence and you and your team are doing the continuing education to support that standard, patients need to know and appreciate that. They should feel pride in having a dental team of such an advanced caliber, even if they themselves are not in a position to judge great dentistry at a clinical level. People take quality cues from the environment and the culture your practice projects. Patients are far more likely to put high-level trust in a practice that shows professional leadership.

Finally, patients need to trust that everyone on your team is committed to that level of excellence. As the saying goes: You are known by the company you keep. If you are surrounded by a team who demonstrate the practice’s commitment to high standards in everything they do, patients will notice.

Once again, it comes back to value because value and trust are forever linked. People put their trust in what they value, and they value the people they trust.